BUFFALO, N.Y. — Nathalia P. Andrade joined the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine as a clinical professor of periodontics and endodontics last September.

Within a week of being hired, Andrade applied for and was awarded a $5,000 seed grant from the university to create a new course weaving AI into periodontics. This dental specialty focuses on the health of periodontium, the tissues that support teeth.

This past semester, she taught “Transforming Periodontal and Dental Care Powered by Artificial Intelligence.” While tailored specifically for periodontal residents, the course was open to all dental school residents and will be offered again in 2026.

Andrade recently weighed in on how AI is transforming periodontics and how dental students at UB are using it.

When did you first become interested in AI as it relates to dental care?

I was always passionate about technology of all kinds. I never took a course in using AI, but during my [postdoctoral] residency, I would sit in front of the computer and figure out how to do it. I saw how it would make periodontic surgery faster and more precise. I started to love using it, and I wanted to teach others how to use it, too.

What is the main focus of your AI research?

AI can be used in three different stages of care: diagnosis, treatment and maintenance. My work is mainly focused on diagnosis and treatment, such as the procedure on lengthening crowns. With AI, we precisely know where to cut the gum and where to remove the bone behind it. When you go free hand, it’s hard to get the measurements right. With AI, you do all the thinking process before the procedure and at the time of the procedure you just need to follow the guide.

How does the guide work?

For the crown lengthening procedure, for example, we use AI to determine how the smile will look after the procedure. Once the patient signs off, we create a guide for the exact position where we need to cut. We print it and put it in the patient’s mouth. In another example, when doing an implant with a patient, a guide can show us the correct position and angulation of the implant. It’s particular helpful in cases with multiple implants.

What are other ways that AI aids in periodontic care?

It can highlight the treatments that the patient most likely needs by the X-rays, periodontal chart and the information that’s in the patient’s record. It can also tell you if the patient is missing a treatment or is due for a cleaning. AI can also help diagnose a patient quicker and more accurately. For example, when an X-ray indicates a problem, there are a lot of variables. One clinician can look at the image and say, “There’s 50% bone loss,” while another clinician will say, “No, for me, it looks like 60%.” I think AI is going to help us create a standard that will be the same for everybody.

What are some of the main points you’re teaching students about using AI?

My main goal is to teach students to use critical thinking while using AI tools. It is a technology in development and can make mistakes. Different kind of procedures have different kind of mistakes; we have to explore them so that we teach the machine how to do the procedures properly in the future.

Talk about the new course and how you used the seed grant to fund it.

The course is designed to supplement the clinical experiences of students in postgraduate programs in 3D surgical digital planning, microscope surgery and AI as applied to periodontics. With the funding, I brought in experts from other schools who taught different aspects of AI. Four came in person and two presented the lectures virtually. They also worked with me on how to apply AI techniques on a larger scale and how to handle HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) regulations.